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lines via shared beliefs and interests which fuse our unanimity and camaraderie. The love of
sports is such a catalyst. It brings people together with a common bond. Sports aficionados are
known for their mutual devotion and reverence to the all time greats of a game. At times, they can
be passionate to the point of fanatical when exuding their thoughts of how "it used to be." So why
is it so few bodybuilders are familiar with the history of their own sport?
Maybe it's because bodybuilding isn't as much of a spectator sport as it is an individual pursuit.
Since bodybuilding is also an activity which emphasizes the latest advancements in training,
supplementation and performance enhancement, some may think it unnecessary to familiarize
themselves with old and outdated methodologies. It's also fair to note that many gym-going
bodybuilders in the year 2000 are comparable in muscularity to some of the top competitors from
the 1940's. All too often, this leads people into thinking that our iron ancestors have little to
offer to today's young lions. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Beyond the lessons to be learned, there's a great and often engrossing history to the sport of
bodybuilding. It's uncertain how it all started, but the fascination with strength and muscularity
dates back to the beginnings of recorded history. Folklore and myths are filled with stories of
strong powerful men from the ancient Greeks (Hercules) to the bible. (Samson) But bodybuilding, as
we now know it, has its roots at the turn of the 20th century.
THE ARRIVAL
The early 1900's brought a tremendous import of Europeans to American shores in the hope of a
better life, or more realistically -- a job. These were a people who were accustomed to hard work
whereas many of the more opulent Americans were growing soft from living the "easy" life. This
made the influx of big, burly aliens the perfect candidates for manual labor.
OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS
Work which involved heavy lifting was the only recourse for most of the undereducated immigrants
and competition for employment became fierce. This was the impetus which inspired a few
entrepreneurs to exploit their manly attributes and "sell" the notion of getting stronger. Ads
soon began popping up extolling the virtues of physical fitness. Catchy headlines that by today's
standards appear corny and quaint such as "Are You a Man Or Merely a Coat Hanger? (Charles
McMahon) "I Make Men Strong" (Earle Liederman) and "Weakness is a Crime. Don't be a Criminal!"
(Bernarr McFadden), were featured in magazines and newspapers.
Originally, these pitches were geared to the first generation foreigners who would benefit from a
greater physical presence. Looking stronger meant being more likely to be chosen for work. It was
a matter of survival. What many of the early muscle hucksters didn't expect was that the allure of
greater strength crossed over to the general populace. The "blue bloods" wanted to overcome their
"weakling" status. They wanted muscle too. And thus, the interest with bodybuilding had begun.
BICEPS BECOME BIG BUSINESS
Perhaps the first muscleman who can be regarded as a "superstar" was Eugene Sandow. Sandow was an
early proponent of weight training who was featured in the wildly popular Ziegfield follies where
he was billed as "The Strongest Man in the World." An overstatement to be sure, but the public ate
it up!
Be that as it may, Sandow, besides his remarkable muscularity, exhibited some extraordinary feats
of strength. At one point in the show, he lifted a platform containing 19 people--and a dog! His
sense of showmanship, along with Ziegfield's flair for hyperbole, made Sandow all the rage.
Suddenly, muscles were "in."
EVERYBODY'S A 98 LB. WEAKLING ONCE
Perhaps the most famous of all muscle promoters was a man named Angelo Siciliano, better known as
Charles Atlas. Atlas marketed a mail order course which was a combination of isometrics,
calisthenics and general health advice. It didn't sell. Then Atlas tried a novel approach. (With
the help of promoter Charles Rodin and Dr. Frederick Tilney) He advertised in comic books and
retitled the course "Dynamic Tension." It seemed as if he hit upon something. Before long, sales
went through the roof! Atlas inadvertently discovered that even boys wanted to be more muscular.
To many an insecure young man, Atlas' promise of "getting a body women will desire and men will
envy" struck a nerve. In many ways, Atlas' course was selling hope. It worked.
To this day, the Charles Atlas course sells into the millions each year. What's especially
interesting is that Atlas can also be considered the first "self help" guru! His course was filled
with self empowering advice and affirmations. It extolled a basic philosophy of positive thinking.
As antiquated as it may appear -- everything in the original Dynamic Tension course still holds up [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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